After the Quakes: Foundation cracks and repairs in Christchurch properties

Over 160,000 residential homes are estimated to have been damaged during the 2010-2011 Canterbury Earthquakes.

During and after the earthquakes, many homeowners noted structural damage to their foundations. This earthquake damages should have been repaired correctly through the Earthquake Commission (EQC) or private insurers, yet a decade on, some homeowners are still finding cracks in their foundations, and dealing with ramifications of substandard cosmetic repairs.

As poorly repaired foundations increase the risk of long-term damage, it’s important that every property owner understands what to be aware of when it comes to having their property properly assessed and repaired.

The importance of strong Foundations

Foundations are the first and most important step in building a home, as they:

  • Provide a level surface for the house to sit on
  • Distribute the load of the house evenly to prevent tilting and sinking
  • Provide stability to protect the house in the event of an earthquake and other natural forces.

If a home’s foundations are incorrectly designed or poorly constructed, there is a higher risk of damage during an earthquake.

Did you know?

  • An estimated 65% of all houses in Christchurch were built before the 1960s
  • Homes built before the 60s often had “rubble” foundations, meaning the concrete was commonly made up of material to reduce costs. Material included river tailings, local greywacke river stone, aggregate, or even old bricks or building rubbish, mixed with low-grade cement
  • Due to the common building practices pre-60s, many homes in Canterbury had existing foundation damage or structural weakness prior to the earthquakes.

It is important that any earthquake foundation damage is properly assessed by professionals who have the expertise and experience to distinguish between damage caused by an earthquake, in comparison to damage caused by other circumstances. In making the right damage assessment, proper long-term damage repairs can be made to the home, safeguarding from future damage.

The effect of earthquakes on buildings

When it comes to earthquake damage, it’s not always the visible damage that is most concerning; it’s the structural damage that lies beneath.

While some home foundations may appear relatively undamaged from the outside with only ‘hairline cracks’, the concrete or plaster finish underneath can in fact be severely weakened. When foundations have cracked due to a seismic movement like an earthquake, it is highly likely that further damage to floors, walls and ceilings exists.

External image of damaged foundation that has been repaired from the outside by injecting a waterproof filler.

In 2013, Building Code or Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) Guidelines were introduced specifying certain requirements be met in a assessing and repairing earthquake foundation damage.

Having assessed thousands of properties in the Christchurch region, it has become apparent that industry guidelines such as the above have not been followed in foundation repairs, with a concerning number of substandard, purely cosmetic repairs. In some instances, the damage has been incorrectly assessed; in others, the contractor has applied the wrong repair strategy.

Poorly repaired foundations can have devastating impacts including:

  • Increased risk of long-term damage
  • Detriments to property re-sale
  • Decreased ability to be properly insured.

It’s important that every property owner understands these factors when it comes to having their property properly assessed and repaired.

How My Insurance Claim can help

If your home has ever undergone earthquake repairs for foundation cracks, or if you have concerns about the quality of repair work previously carried out, it is imperative to have these repairs inspected to ensure they were completed correctly.

That’s where My Insurance Claim can help.

We have a team of specialist forensic damage assessors who inspect, photograph and record full details of the damage to your property. This is presented and discussed with you in a Full Damage Report, so assessments can then be made as to how to best proceed with your property repair claim.

Our team will work closely with you throughout the claims journey, managing the technical, legal and procedural components of contesting previous assessments by the EQC or your insurer. We will ensure you are informed and supported at each step of the process.

We’ll also run your claim on a No Win, No Fee* basis, so you only pay us if we achieve a successful outcome for you.

To find out more about the claims journey or to book your free assessment with one of our claims specialists, contact us today.